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Hastings Law Journal

Abstract

Thirty-five years ago the California courts shook the nation's education finance system with the landmark decision in Serrano v. Priest, guaranteeing all of the state's children an equal education. Spurred by Serrano, advocates across the country brought their own lawsuits, winning significant victories in many states and billions of new dollars for their schools. But in California, the goal of Serrano - a quality education for everyone - has yet to be accomplished, in part because of an anti-tax backlash that has significantly constrained the ability of the state and its school districts to adequately fund their schools. As a result, California's school system-once the envy of the country-has deteriorated to the point where it is now one of the most underfunded systems in the country.

But now public school advocates in California have achieved another important victory: a one billion dollar settlement resulting from the class action lawsuit Williams v. State. In Williams, students and poor school districts across the state challenged the state's school finance system as unequal and unconstitutional. Their victory is important symbolically, and the increased money will be of obvious benefit. But it is not enough. The state's schools remain woefully underfunded, and the system is still in need of substantial reform.

This Note explores the history of education finance litigation in both California and nationwide. It also provides an in-depth analysis of the strategies and legal arguments used in Williams. Based on the strategy used in Williams and elsewhere, this Note concludes with a look at possible directions for education finance litigation in California.

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